Contranyms, Contronyms, Autoantonyms

Just when you thought it was safe to use the English language . . .

I show you an entire classification of words with two meanings that are opposite to each other! While each word may have other meanings, especially if it’s used as a different part of speech, I’m showing you the two that are opposite.

Oh, and yes: we can spell contronyms with an “o” or “a” in the middle. And they are also known as autoantonyms.

I’ll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor . . .

There are hundreds of these words with at least two opposite meanings, but I’ll spare you from having to deal with more than just a handful here, all of which come from a list on Daily Writing Tips. The examples, however, are my own.

So, here for your viewing and learning pleasure are a baker’s dozen of these unusual English words!

1.  Bolt: To secure, or to flee

  • The dog bolted from (fled from) the room.
  • I then bolted (secured) the door!

2.  Bound: Heading to a destination, or restrained (from movement)

  • Her train is bound for (headed for) New York City.
  • She was bound by (restrained by) a confidentiality agreement.

3.  Cleave: To adhere, or to separate

  • Marriage vows often mention “cleave (join) unto me.”
  • John will cleave (split) wood for the fire later.

4.  Clip: To fasten, or to detach/cut

  • I will clip (fasten) the leash to the harness.
  • Sam’s barber clipped (cut) his hair really short this time!

5.  Dust: To add fine particles, or to remove them

  • Marie lightly dusted (added) sugar onto the pancakes.
  • I dust (remove particles) every day because of the dog hair.

6.  Fast: Quick, or stuck or made stable

  • Amy runs really fast (quickly) in her races, doesn’t she?
  • I held fast to (didn’t change) my views on that point.

7. Finished: Completed, or destroyed

  • I hope we’ll be finished (done) before the storm hits!
  • If the storm is really bad, we could be finished (ruined) here.

8.  Give out:
To provide, or to stop

  • I will give out (provide) the gifts tomorrow.
  • If my energy doesn’t give out (stop), I’ll finish the job later.

9.  Left: Remained, or departed

  • The box was left (remained) on the sidewalk.
  • The train left (departed) right on schedule.

10.  Off: Deactivated, or activated, as an alarm

  • She turned the TV off (shut it down/deactivated it).
  • I hope the alarm goes off (makes a noise / activates) tomorrow!

Strike: To hit, or to miss in an attempt to hit

  • I hope he strikes (hits) the ball the first time!
  • Oh no! He struck (missed it) out!

12.  Trim: To add to/decorate, or to remove excess from

  • Each Christmas, we trim (add to/decorate) the tree!
  • Sarah trimmed (removed) the fat from that roast.

13.  Weather:
To withstand, or to wear away

  • We can weather (endure/withstand) anything Mother Nature gives us!
  • The ocean’s waves have really weathered (worn away) that beach.

So, how was that? Are there other contranyms that you could offer to us, so that we can learn even more?

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